It wasn’t hard to get into the comic con mood during the three days of this year’s Fan Expo Portland Feb. 17-19.
The vibe was festively nerdy, decidedly cosplay friendly, and handsomely answered the questions of what this con was going to be like. Wizard World had long occupied this “slot” in the comic con schedule in Portland, but with Fan Expo’s acquisition of the Wizard World brand, there were questions about how something new would fit into a spot that had been previously occupied.
The answer came early and often as booths featured artists, artisans and creators galore and the celebrity guest list was stellar, featuring Star Trek guests, both old and new (William Shatner, Jonathan Frakes, Gates McFadden and Brent Spiner), a nice lineup of Back to the Future actors, and my personal favorite, Ricky, Julian and Bubbles, stars of the Canadian classic, Trailer Park Boys.
But that tip of the iceberg also included voice actors, anime representation and much more. And while guests make up a nice portion of the con, my favorite moments are spent with the creators of comics and graphic novels. Guys like Ron Randall, Jonathan Hedrick, Jeremy Colwell, and Aaron Reynolds, who were all present on “authors row” offering looks at their newest works. It is in those small areas, with custom displays hyping their wares, that I find the best conversations.
These creators come for the fun, the new friendships and, of course, to move some product that they’ve spent a large portion of their professional lives creating.
“My overall opinion of the (Fan Expo) show is that it was very ‘pop culture’ driven event,” said Jonathan Hedrick, a writer/creator who was touting his work, ‘DreamMaster.’ “Comic books were not the main focus and as a comic book creator, there are pros and cons to this. For example, a comic book focused show will typically have people attending that are specifically looking for comics. Shows like Fan Expo Portland have a more diverse amount of attendees, so they might not always be searching for comic books. This might work out in a comic book creator’s favor by gaining a new fan. But it can also hinder the creator’s experience.”
For Aaron Reynolds, who has created a delightfully fun collection of items around his “Effin’ Birds” works, the goal at FanExpo Portland is pretty clear-cut.
“I have two goals at a show; sell enough stuff to make the trip worthwhile, and find new fans for “Effin’ Birds,” he said. “Portland was a good show for both of those things. I sold triple the number of prints I expected to, fully sold out of books, and gave away twice as many business cards and postcards as I normally expect to give away at a show of that size. And I had good attendance and participation at my panel (Check it out at: http://bootlegsafari.com), which is important.”
For both Reynolds and Hedrick, the fans are a prime motivator.
“My goals when I’m at an event like this, especially one on the opposite side of the country from where I live, is to make new fans, meet fans that are already established, and network with other creators,” explained Hedrick. “I really enjoyed the city (Portland) and the show (Fan Expo Portland) was nice. If it was a little more focused on comic books, I might have had a better experience.”
For others, this year’s transition from Wizard World to Fan Expo Portland provided a little different, but good, vibe to the con.
“I’m aware of the change, but I think this year’s con is a pretty good representation the comic con genre,” said Amanda Jones, who admitted she was a long-time con-goer of many types. “I love the comic book creators, but there was a nice amount of diversity to keep things interesting up and down the aisles. I think Fan Expo Portland did a nice job in its maiden voyage. Would like to see it grow.”
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